April 5, 2012 / 4:57 PM / 6 years ago

Austrian public-sector ad probe faces more checks

VIENNA, April 5 (Reuters) - Austrian prosecutors said on Thursday they will seek expert advice on the value of two dozen newspaper ads taken out by state railways before deciding whether to pursue an investigation into Chancellor Werner Faymann over them.

Prosecutors have been looking into whether Faymann and a top aide pressured the OBB railways and Asfinag motorway agency into placing costly advertisements with friendly newspapers during his tenure as infrastructure minister before he became chancellor.

Faymann, a Social Democrat, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the case, which the opposition Freedom Party had asked prosecutors to investigate.

The Vienna district attorney’s office presented the findings of its months-long probe to the office of the chief prosecutor, which accepted most of the file and sent it on to the justice ministry for a final decision on whether to drop the case or bring indictments, prosecutor’s spokesman Peter Gildemeister said.

But it sent part of the case back for more checks.

“The Chief Prosecutor Office’s review concluded that in part of the case - 24 advertisements in the Krone newspaper - the factual basis had to be extended somewhat before a final decision can be made. This part of the case goes back to the district attorney,” he said.

The question was whether the marketing value of the ads was in line with what the railways paid for them, he added.

He declined to say whether prosecutors had recommended dropping or pursuing the bulk of the cases, which have made headlines in Austria amid a wave of high-profile corruption allegations that led to a special parliamentary panel.

Austrian media said the main part of the case would likely be dropped.

Faymann made no comment on the news, but aide Josef Ostermayer - who has also denied wrongdoing - told the Austria Press Agency that the prosecutors’ move showed clearly that “the accusations by the Freedom Party were essentially invalid”. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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